The Chikji-sa of today is very different from the temple of days gone by. One of oldest temples in Korea, Chikji-sa was built in the foothills of Mt. Hwangak-san and originally consisted of 40 buildings. After almost total destruction during the Hideyoshi Invasion, only 20 buildings were rebuilt in 1602. It is believed to have been originally established in 418 during the reign of King Nulchi (r. 417-458) by Master Ado who first brought Buddhism to Shilla ?however, Buddhism was only fully accepted in about 527. Chikji-sa Temple was rebuilt by Master Chajang in 645, during the reign of Queen Sondok (r. 632-647). Destruction and reconstruction succeeded each other with major renovations in the 10th century and again from 1966 to 1981.
The name of the temple is very unusual, "Direct Pointing Temple." There are three theories concerning the origin. Master Ado is reputed to have pointed to Mt. Hwangak-san and said, "There is a good place for a great temple to be built." Elsewhere it is recorded that Master Nungyo of the late Koryo Dynasty measured the site with his hand instead of a ruler. Finally, the name reflects the core of Korean Buddhism, the teaching that describes Zen as "direct pointing to the human heart, not relying on words and letters."
The most famous monk associated with this temple is Master Samyong (1544-1610). Born in 1544, he was orphaned at an early age and ordained at Chikji-sa Temple at the age of sixteen. He then studied under Master Sosan (1520-1604) in the Diamond Mountains and both of them led an army of some 5,000 trained soldier-monks to fight off the Japanese invaders of the sixteenth century. At the beginning of the invasion, King Sonjo (1567-1608) fled the capital, leaving a poorly-trained, weak army to defend the country. In desperation he called Master Sosan who was 73 years of age who, iIn spite of his advanced age, managed to recruit an army of 5,000 monk-soldiers.<